January 2014


What are your thoughts on this message?  Agree or disagree?  Is atheism a religion?  Why or why not?

atheism not religion

UPDATE: February 13

Now that I’ve heard from you and interacted a bit with your answers, here are my thoughts on the message:

I think the message and image is powerful.  I agree with the message too.  Atheism cannot be meaningfully identified as a religion.  This might seem like a no-brainer for some since atheism lacks belief in a deity, but belief in a deity is not a sine qua non of religion.  Think of Buddhism, for example.

The best reason for rejecting the claim that atheism is a religion is that atheism is nothing more than the belief that God does not exist.  There is no other content to atheism.  For something to qualify as a religion, not only does it need a set of beliefs, but it needs to contain positive beliefs.  Religions typically involve rituals of some sort, and provide answers to questions about origins, what’s wrong with the world, morality, meaning and purpose, and what the future holds.  Atheism does not address any of these elements.

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think more feel lessToo many people in our day think with their feelings.  “Feeling-speak” is so pervasive in our culture that the vast majority of us talk about what we think in terms of what we feel.  For example, one might say “I feel that Christianity is true” rather than “I think Christianity is true.”  Feelings are wholly subjective and have no truth value – they cannot be true or false.  They just describe our psychological dispositions.  Thoughts, however, do have truth value.  They purport to describe reality, and the description is either true or false.

Since our ideas and beliefs have truth value, let’s be intentional about speaking in terms of what we think rather than what we feel.

Lack of FaithHe who makes a claim bears a burden to demonstrate the truth of his claim.  Theists have a burden to demonstrate their claim that God exists, and atheists have a burden to demonstrate their claim that God does not exist.  Nowadays, however, it’s common for atheists to claim that the theist alone bears a burden of justification.  They try to escape their own burden of justification by redefining atheism from a “belief that God does not exist” to “the absence of belief in God.”  Since only positive beliefs can be defended, they are off the hook.  All the pressure lies with the theist.

While I think their attempt to redefine atheism is intellectually dishonest, let’s grant the validity of their redefinition for a moment.  Greg Koukl observed that while it’s certainly true atheists lack a belief in God, they don’t lack beliefs about God.  When it comes to the truth of any given proposition, one only has three logical options: affirm it, deny it, withhold judgment (due to ignorance or the inability to weigh competing evidences).  As applied to the proposition “God exists,” those who affirm the truth of this proposition are called theists, those who deny it are called atheists, and those who withhold judgment are called agnostics. Only agnostics, who have not formed a belief, lack a burden to demonstrate the truth of their position.

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I don’t know how I missed this news story, but on December 20 U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby declared that Amendment 3 in Utah’s constitution – which defined marriage as between a man and woman, and the voter’s passed in 2004 – is unconstitutional.  Same-sex marriages began immediately.  Utah appealed to the SCOTUS for a stay, which was granted by Justice Sotomayor on January 6.  In the 17 days before the stay, ~1300 same-sex couples were married.

Then, there’s Oklahoma.  Similar story.  On January 14, Judge Terence C. Kern of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled that Oklahoma’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it is based on a moral disapproval of homosexuality and has no rational basis.  In light of what happened in Utah, however, Judge Kern stayed his own ruling.  It is almost certain that Oklahoma will appeal the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO – the same court where Utah’s appeal will be heard.

A recent study published in Review of the Economics of the Household is one more study that calls into question the claims of the American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association that when it comes to the effects on children, there is no difference between being raised in a home headed up by male-female parents and a home headed up by same-sex parents.

What did the researchers find?  When looking at the rates of high school graduation, they found that the children of lesbian couples were the least likely to graduate (65% as likely as children of married, opposite-sex couples) – even more unlikely than children of single parents!  They even discovered that male children raised in a lesbian home are less likely to graduate than male children raised in a gay home, and female children raised in a gay home are less likely to graduate than female children raised in a lesbian home.  It appears that when it comes to parenting, moms and dads are not interchangeable.  The gender of one’s parent does have an effect on kids.

The findings are significant because Canada has long supported same-sex couples (marriage benefits since 1997, and marriage since 2005), and the data set is extremely large (a 20% sampling of the Canadian population based on the data contained in the Canadian Census).

For similar studies, see the following:

Studies purporting to show that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by opposite-sex couples are flawed, and new evidence that they fare worse

For a critique of Allen’s study, see Philip Cohen’s analysis.  Mark Regnerus also points out a few limitations of the study, even though he finds the overall study credible and valuable.

HT: Mark Regnerus

Christian apologists have long pointed out that when it comes to textual reliability, the NT is in a league of its own compared to all other ancient texts.  According to NT manuscript expert Daniel Wallace, there are 1000x more copies of the NT than the average ancient Greek text.  If we stacked the NT manuscripts on top of each other, they would reach more than a mile high.  Not only are there more manuscripts for the NT than any other ancient text, but the gap between the original text and our first copies is smaller for the NT than other ancient texts.  There are 3x as many NT manuscripts within 200 years of the original text than the average Greco-Roman text has in 2000 years.

Unfortunately, many of the statistics appearing in apologetics literature are outdated.  Additional manuscripts of both the NT and other ancient texts continue to be discovered.  Clay Jones wrote an article for the Christian Research Institute in 2012 providing the latest stats.  The article was recently posted on the CRI website.  Check it out and see how the NT compares to other ancient Greek texts.

God ForeknowA couple of years ago a friendly soul purchased Steven C. Roy’s book, How Much Does God Foreknow from my Ministry Resource List.  Other research, however, prevented me from getting to this book until now.

As the title implies, the purpose of the book is to explore the question of God’s foreknowledge. It is meant to be a critical evaluation of open theism, which is the view that God cannot know the future, free choices made by moral agents because the future does not exist. One of the strengths of Roy’s work is that he interacts directly with Open Theists, quoting them at length.  This avoids the potential for constructing a straw man argument, and allows the reader to consider Open Theists arguments for themselves.

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